First Hit: A complex film showcasing an extraordinary acting performance by Kate Winslet.
This is a complex film about feelings of growing up; love, inadequacies, right, wrong and duty.
The film begins just before or at the beginning of WWII, has scenes war crimes court scenes and in the 1990s. The film spends time in all three time periods. And although the war is part of the story; it is only used to propel a better understanding of the characters.
The overall story is that Ralph Fiennes (playing Michael Berg) is reflecting on his life and his relationship to his daughter when we slip back in time to see him as a 15 year old boy (played by David Kross) who is assisted by an older woman named Hanna Schmitz. Hanna (played by Kate) is in her 30s when he falls ill near her home. She cleans him up and helps him home. When he returns to thank her for her assistance, he falls in love and lust as he sneaks a peek while watching her dress.
Embarrassed when he discovers she watched him spy on her, he runs away but comes back again only to be completely seduced by Hanna. This becomes a summer romance with him reading her stories followed by passionate sessions of love making. The most difficult thing for him in this relationship is her constant control of the situations and she even calls him “kid”.
However, you also get that she is learning something from being with him. One day she just disappears and he is heartbroken. A few years later, while in law school, he attends war crimes trials as part of his classes and discovers she is one of the defendants.
He is confused, shocked, and hurt as he watches her more of her story unfold.
This is an interesting and tragic film. It covers a lot of complex feelings as it weaves its way through the story. It is a dark story and much of the film is on the dark side with gloomy weather and clouds. Director Stephen Daldry does a good job of keeping the story on course and interesting to the viewers. We know nothing as to why Hanna is so remote but learn on important aspect about 2/3 through the film. However, I kept looking for additional reasons for her insistence on control and elusiveness. Regardless, Kate Winslet makes this character her own. I watched her with anticipation and curiosity. She’s vulnerable and hardened and makes it all work with sympathy and detachment. David Kross is wonderful as the young Michael Berg.
Overall: Oscar nod for Kate is probably in the offing for her performance in this complex film. However is isn’t an overall great film because it doesn’t get better as it moves along. It begins great and stays pretty even after that.